You can’t fix stupid – but you have to love it.
According to a WIKI page I came across while researching another subject, “the Dunning-Kruger effect occurs when incompetent people not only fail to realise their incompetence, but consider themselves much more competent than everyone else. Basically – they’re too stupid to know that they’re stupid.”
Justin Kruger and David Dunning set out to prove their hypothesis. They proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:
*Tend to overestimate their own level of skill.
*Fail to recognize genuine skill in others.
*Fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy.
*Recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they can be trained to substantially improve.
Turns out that subsequent experiments support these findings. So, now we have official evidence of what most of us already know to be true. People are stupid. Be honest now. Tell me you do NOT know someone who meets this criteria?
The challenge for me is that nowhere in the Bible does it encourage us to strive for anything less than excellent. And, when you think about it – to ask for, demand or encourage (depending on your style) anything less than excellence from others is NOT doing them any favors. So, from a biblical perspective how are we supposed to deal with people who seem to exhibit the Dunning-Kruger effect with stunning regularity?
This is a significant issue because not only can these people be aggravating and irritating – they can be a tremendous drain on your time and energy. Just who are we talking about? Let’s begin by establishing who these people are.
Proverbs 18:2 – “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.”
Proverbs 1:7 – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Proverbs 26:1-11 – “Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, honor is not fitting for a fool. Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest. A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the backs of fools! Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. Sending a message by the hands of a fool is like cutting off one’s feet or drinking poison. Like the useless legs of one who is lame is a proverb in the mouth of a fool. Like tying a stone in a sling is the giving of honor to a fool. Like a thorn-bush in a drunkard’s hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool. Like an archer who wounds at random is one who hires a fool or any passer-by. As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.”
Proverbs 13:20 – “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”
Psalm 1:1 – “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.”
There are plenty of other verses that talk about associating with slanderers, gossips, people who are discontent, people who are immoral or quick-tempered – even brothers and sisters in the Lord who do stupid things.
Next, let’s get the “mercy before judgment” thing out-of-the-way. Many Christian leaders and churches promote a false doctrine that suggests we should be constantly embracing both the world and our fellow Christians with a life-long pass on their behavior covered by the blanket of “mercy”. God doesn’t do this. If He did there would not be stories like that of Sodom and Gomorrah, Jonah and the whale, the Great Flood – and the list goes on and on. God’s character requires consequences for sinful and stupid behavior. It’s how He put the universe together. If the mercy blanket was to be applied to all human behavior we would have no law handed down by God; instead we would be constantly embroiled in some creepy, carnal love-fest. Did Jesus give Satan a pass on his behavior? Saul (soon to be Paul) did not get a pass from God for persecuting other Christians.
The biblical roots of the word “mercy” – all come back to the concept of “love”. Putting “mercy” into the context of “love” has far-reaching considerations. God tried to spare people before he sent a firestorm. Jonah survived the whale. God gave people about 100 years to watch Noah build an Ark. Saul was blinded and went on to become a great servant of God. THAT is how mercy fits into judgment and love.
From Entrepreneurial Faith: Launching Bold Initiatives to Expand God’s Kingdom by Walt Kallestad, Kirbyjon Caldwell & Paul Sorensen: “In the church, it is tough, because we don’t want to hurt anybody. We’ve bought into a myth. We have concluded that because God made everyone wonderful, we have to let people lead music, for instance, who have no talent and little musical ability. In truth, we allow this to continue because we don’t want to enter the difficult area of evaluation, which might lead to disappointment but in the long-term leads to people being placed where their gifts can be exercised more fully. Evaluation can help identify a person who is talented, but perhaps not in the position where he or she is currently serving. Evaluating your staff allows you to make some moves that will put everyone in positions where God can use their strengths to the best advantage.”
The authors are addressing church leaders and exhorting them to have the courage to be honest within their evaluation of people they work with. We would all be far better off if we did the same thing with all of our relationships by honestly and courageously evaluating them and then taking Biblical, corrective action. Putting mercy into the context of love here; it is much more loving to compassionately approach the choir member who always sings off-key and talk about it rather than letting them falsely believe they are a wonderful addition to the choir. Now that, to me, is stupid.
Biblical principles can be applied to stupid.
John 13:34 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
Matthew 10:14 – “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”
1 Corinthians 13 – “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Matthew 6:14-16 – “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Luke 8:11-15 – “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”
The blueprint for dealing with stupid comes directly from the Bible.
Because there are so many verses in the bible that talk about the principles I am presenting here, I would encourage you to conduct your own study. If I just consider the verses above, it seems quite possible that part of the reason God either puts, or allows stupid people to come into my life is just to see how I will treat them.
It is clear I am to love them. I should make every attempt to move them toward the Kingdom of God.
It is equally clear I need to forgive them when they do stupid things. We all do stupid things – and Jesus forgives us.
I should try to plant seeds into their lives, but I should also be looking for fertile ground with this precious time I have on earth, and if “stupid” doesn’t get it – despite my best efforts – after a certain period of time, I should be shaking the dust off of my sandals and moving on – in search of more fertile ground.
Fools and stupid people should not be my closest relationships, by any stretch of biblical interpretation. I do not have to hang out with them.
If I am going to practice love and model the heart of Jesus, I am going to speak the truth in love. Seems to me that so many of us like the idea of the “love” part of this but get uncomfortable with the “truth” part of it. Just look at the heart of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.
It might be worth considering that another reason God put “stupid” in your life is so that you might actually tell them. If you don’t – who will?